Pete Seeger

January 28th, 2014 | Pete Seeger, Reflections, Songs, Yarra River

I have been very distressed following the news that Pete Seeger, aged 94, has died.

I was talking about it to a friend last night, and he quite reasonably made the point that you can’t be too sad about anybody dying at the age of 94. He’s right, of course. Pete Seeger lived a long and fruitful life, and nobody lives forever.

But it seemed as though Pete was going to live forever. He just went on and on, and I came to think of him as almost immortal.

I could never take Pete’s politics too seriously. They had a fairytale quality that never squared with my reality. But that wasn’t really at the heart of Pete, I always felt – or perhaps I simply approached him from another direction.

What I truly loved about him was that when listening to him talk and sing, I felt as though he was talking to me, and I felt as though I really mattered. Listening to Pete Seeger, all my hopes and dreams came alive in a way that didn’t quite happen when I was listening to anybody else.

The recordings with Arlo Guthrie were especially magical. I discovered the 2CD set “Precious Friend” many years after its original release, but it became a household staple, particularly for long car trips. There is a simplicity, a beauty, an innocence in these recordings that is rare indeed. And to hear Pete talk about his early days with Woody Guthrie was to make you feel you could almost reach out and touch the man. Suddenly, I felt as though I was part of the story.

I will miss you, Pete, though I never met you. I liked to picture you up there on the Hudson River chopping wood. Even my wood chopping was inspired by you!

I like to think, also, that the little bush poetry show we put on last year at Herring Island to raise funds for the Yarra Riverkeepers was, ultimately, inspired by you, and your efforts to clean up the Hudson River.

Pete, I will never forget you. Thank you for everything.